Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s Imperial Cities and the kingdom’s spiritual center, is central to the Islamic world. Founded around 790 by Moulay Idriss I, many mosques and mederas (Koranic schools) were constructed in Fes. Considered by scholars to be the last true example of a typical medieval Arab town, Fes is under the strict building code supervision of UNESCO, which declared the whole medina (Old City) of Fes a world Heritage Site in 1981. Its labyrinth of alleyways reveals craft workshops, vast leather tanneries and richly ornamented monuments.
Considered the gateway to the Atlas Mountains, Meknes is smaller and more subdued than Fes. The narrow streets of the medina and the grand buildings of this imperial city reflect its rich tradition and culture; no wonder so many visitors adore this charming city. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became a capital city under Sultan Moulay Ismaïl (1672–1727), the founder of the Alawite dynasty. The sultan then transformed the settlement into an impressive city featuring Spanish-Moorish architecture. Today, the city is a harmonious blend of 17th-century Maghreb, Islamic and European styles.